What is "APA"?
The American Psychological Association (APA) has produced a publication manual that includes all of the rules that you need to know to produce a manuscript that conforms to their standards. This manual, now in the 5th edition, has been accepted as the gold standard by many academic disciples. Other common academic style manuals include The Chicago Manual of Style and The Modern Language Association Style Manual, (also known as "Chicago" and "MLA"). If you are a graduate student, it is a really good idea to purchase the style manual accepted by the majority of the faculty in your department. In Special Education at UNM, you should purchase the APA manual. It is available in the campus bookstore. Make sure you get the most recent (5th) edition.
Actually, these manuals have a real reason for being, other than driving students crazy. By providing a uniform way of presenting information, these style guides assist the writer in preparing their papers in a manner that will be understood by most readers. For example, because the information needed for a reference to be complete is specified, readers are assured that they can obtain a copy of a particular cited work themselves, if they are interested. Without ALL of the parts of a citation, references can be near impossible to track down.
What’s really important?
Each style manual has many, many rules, most of which the vast majority of students do not need to learn in detail. There are, however, a few major areas that you should pay attention to:
- page margins
- type styles and fonts
- citations of sources
- reducing bias in language
Just the Facts, Ma’am
The following are just a FEW of the most important rules. For more information, check out the manual (make sure you get the 6th edition) and/or go to the APA website.
Format: All papers should be double-spaced throughout, (including the reference section) with one inch margins all around. Do not add extra lines between paragraphs or sections. The font should be 12 pt and you need to use a "serif" type style (with the hooks and curly-cues), such as Times or Courier. All paragraphs should be indented half an inch, NOT five spaces. Only one space should be added between the period at the end of a sentence and the first letter of the next.
Headings: These tell the reader how your text is organized -- they are VERY important. You need to decide how many levels of headings you will need, before you can figure out what they look like. For example, many college papers will have at least two levels. The first level includes the major categories, such as the introduction, whatever you name the body of your paper, and the conclusion or discussion (or both). You may then also want several sub-categories in the body of your text. For example, if you are writing about theories of second language development, you would use a sub heading for each of the major theories you discuss. If you then break any of these categories into smaller groups, you would need at least one additional level.
If you are using only two levels, the first level of heading (i.e. introduction) should be centered in upper and lower case letters. The next level should be flush to the left margin (NOT indented), italicized, in upper and lower case letters. If you use a third level, that heading should be indented, italicized, with only the first letter of the first word in upper case AND it should be followed with a period, after which you write your first sentence, without using a paragraph return. If you use more than three levels of headings, you need to check the APA manual for the correct format.
Quotations and citations are extremely important. These rules help you to clearly identify where you got your information. The reader needs to know whether you obtained the information from some source or whether that provided is your own interpretation. If you do not make this clear, you could run into concerns about plagiarism. To avoid this, you absolutely need to indicate WHO said WHAT, WHEN and WHERE.
When you include information from an outside source, you will typically either 1) paraphrase the original author’s words or 2) use a direct quote, writing down EXACTLY what was written in the original text. To avoid plagiarizing when you paraphrase, you need to change both the content AND form of the information you read -- it is not enough to shuffle the words around (from passive to active voice, for example) or substitute synonyms within the same sentence structure. If you are having difficulty paraphrasing something without falling into this trap, you should consider including direct quotes, (which you indicate with quotations marks), from the material in question.
With direct quotes you MUST include the page number(s) of the original source, along with the author(s) last name(s) and the year of the publication. The full reference then must be included in the reference section. If you are able to paraphrase the information, or you just want to refer to a work in general, you only need to include the author(s) last name(s) and the year of publication (and then, of course, include the full citation in the reference section too). There are several ways you can do in-text citations, such as in the following examples:
- According to Smith (1989), life can be pretty exciting.
- Life can sometimes be pretty exciting (Smith, 1989).
- "Yahoo!" (Smith, 1989, p. 3).
- Talking about life, Smith (1989) said "Yahoo!" (p. 3).
Formatting your references: Your reference list starts on a new page and should have the word 'References' centered at the top of the page (not bold, not underlined, and only the first letter capitalized). All references must be double spaced. Do not add an extra line in between references. The new (6th) edition of the APA manual has gone back to the old style of using "hanging indents," which means that the first line of each reference goes all the way to the left margin, with the following lines of each reference indented. You can set this up on your computer by using the ruler at the top of your screen. Drag the bottom triangle to the right by 1/2 an inch, leaving the top triangle all the way to the left (the opposite of how you set your paragraph indents). That should make all of your author names stick out to the left, while indenting the rest of each reference.
Where do I put the periods and commas? The APA manual provides the format for each kind of citation you might use, such as journal articles, web sites, conference presentations, etc. You need to look up the correct format in the manual.It is really important for students taking graduate level classes to own a current copy of the APA manual. For an example of a reference section formatted in APA that includes journal articles, chapters from edited books, and authored books, click here* For up-to-date information about citating electronic sources (i.e. web pages) follow this link: http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html. This does not, however, replace the need to own your own copy of the APA manual.
Additional resources can be found at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (see this specific page on using APA format).
** To view PDF documents you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader
APA Changes 6th Edition
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-01-16 11:31:56
The American Psychological Association (APA) updated its style manual in the summer of 2009. This resource presents the changes made between the fifth and sixth editions. Please note that the first printing of the APA sixth edition contained misprints; if you are using the APA manual, make sure you are using at least the second printing of the sixth edition.
Traditionally, psychologists were the main users of APA, but recently, students and writers in other fields began using APA style. Therefore, the sixth edition was written with a broader audience in mind. The changes made to the sixth edition reflect this broader audience.
This resource was created following the APA manual’s “What’s New in APA,” is organized according to the APA manual chapters, and highlights updates to the sixth edition that most concern student writers instead of those interested in publishing manuscripts. For a more complete discussion of the changes, please visit this site.
Levels of Heading
Headings are used to help guide the reader through a document. The levels are organized by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading.
Fifth Edition (Section 3.31 in the APA manual)
|1||CENTERED UPPERCASE HEADINGS|
|2||Centered Uppercase and Lowercase Headings|
|3||Centered, Italicized, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings|
|4||Left-aligned, Italicized, Uppercase and Lowercase Side Heading|
|5||Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.|
Sixth Edition (3.03)
|1||Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings|
|2||Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading|
|3||Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period.|
|4||Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.|
|5||Indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.|
For example, in a scientific report following APA style, a report contains three sections: Method, Results, and Discussion. Each of these sections start with level 1 headings:
Methods (Level 1)
Site of Study (Level 2)
Participant Population (Level 2)
Teachers. (Level 3)
Students. (Level 3)
Results (Level 1)
Spatial Ability (Level 2)
Test one. (level 3)
Teachers with experience. (Level 4)
Teachers in training. (Level 4)
Test two. (Level 3)
Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)
Reducing Bias in Language (3.11)
Using precise language is expected in scientific writing, and the sixth edition offers new ways in which to talk about research participants (note that “subjects” is still an acceptable term to use, but “participants” is more representative of the individuals’ roles in the research project).
Refer to participants at the appropriate level of specificity. The manual provides the example of using women and men to refer to all human beings instead of only using man. Man is appropriate to use when referring to one man but not when referring to a population that includes men and women.
Refer to participants how they wish to be called. Try to avoid labels if possible, but if this is not avoidable, be respectful. Focus on the people and not the label. For example, instead of labeling a group “the elderly" or "the arthritic," labels in which individuals are lost, try “older adults" or "a woman with arthritis."
Acknowledge participants’ participation while still following the rules in your field. For example, a cognitive psychology student might use the term “subjects” in her research report, but a nursing student might use the term “patients” to refer to those who participated in his research. Whatever term you choose to use, be sure you are consistent throughout your paper and with your field’s guidelines.
The Mechanics of Style
Spacing (4.01). Regarding punctuation in manuscript drafts, APA suggests using two spaces after periods ending sentences to aid readability.
One space: “Previous research shows that patients are interested in palliative care. This research project explores how to discuss palliative care with patients.”
Two spaces: “Previous research shows that patients are interested in palliative care. This research project explores how to discuss palliative care with patients.”
Approximations (4.31-32). Use words to express approximations of days, months, and year.
“I started spelunking about four years ago.”
Reporting statistics (4.35, 44, and 10). Use a zero before the decimal point with numbers less than one when the statistic can be greater than one.
Do not use a zero before the decimal point when the number cannot be greater than one.
r = .015
Include effect sizes and confidence intervals with statistics. This will allow the reader to more fully understand the conducted analyses.
Use brackets to group together confidence interval limits in both the body text and tables (5.15).
“95% Cls [-7.2, 4.3], [9.2, 12.4], and [-1.2, -0.5]” (p. 94)
The sixth edition includes a section (5.01) on the purpose of displaying data. This section can help you decide when and how to display your data. For example, your data might show that you are exploring data and information, or your data may serve a storage purpose for later retrieval.
More than likely, though, your data will serve either a communication purpose to show you have discovered meaning in data and you want to show/communicate to others this meaning.
Figures. Figures include graphs, charts, maps, drawings, and photographs. As a general rule, only include figures when they add to the value of the paper. If the figure merely repeats what is written in the paper, do not include it, as it does not add any new information to the paper.
The sixth edition also emphasizes the importance of clearly labeling electrophysiological, radiological, and genetic data.
Direct Quotations (6.01-21)
The sixth edition provides explicit rules for direct quotations and states that you must credit the source when “paraphrasing, quoting an author directly, or describing an idea that influenced your work” (p. 170).
If the quotation is less than 40 words, incorporate the quotation into the text and place quotation marks round the quotation. Cite the source immediately after the quotation and continue with the sentence.
Porter (1998) has stated that, “The internetworked classroom has the potential (not yet realized) to empower students” (p. 5), and this research project examines this potential.
If the quotation you are using falls at the end of the sentence, enclose the quotation with quotation marks without including the quotation’s original punctuation. Here’s a sentence as it appears in the original text:
“Semantic frames/domains represent one of the two major organizing principles for conceptual structure” (Croft & Cruse, 2004, p. 32).
Here’s what the sentence looks like when quoted within a text:
In arguing for frame semantics, Croft and Cruse (2004) asserted, “Semantic frames/domains represent one of the two major organizing principles for conceptual structure” (p. 32).
If the quotation has more than 40 words, use a block quotation. Begin the quotation on a new line and indent a half-inch from the left margin. Double-space the entire quotation, and at the end of the quotation, provide citation information after the final punctuation mark.
John Nicholson (1820) anticipated this effect when discussion farming methods in the nineteenth century:
Perhaps it would be well, if some institution were devised, and supported at the expense of the State, which would be so organized as would tend most effectually to produce a due degree of emulation among Farmers, by rewards and honorary distinctions conferred by those who, by their successful experimetnal efforts and improvements, should render themselves duly entitled to them. (p. 92)
The Reference List
References that appear in the text must appear in the references list in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, with the exception of personal communication; only cite personal communication in the text, not in the reference list.
Electronic sources (6.31). Because electronic publishing has become a standard in research, the sixth edition provides an overview of electronic sources and how to reference them, specifically with URLs and DOIs.
URLs, more commonly known as a web address, locate information housed on the Internet. The fifth edition specified that references to electronic sources should refer to the article’s or document’s URL. However, they are prone to “breaking” or deleting, and to resolve issues associated with the unstable nature of URLs, publishers have started using DOIs with articles.
For more details on how to cite electronic sources with following the sixth edition, consult your APA manual or the OWL’s resource on citing electronic sources.
While citing from a webpage, you may not be able to find a page number to refer to, i.e., there is no pagination. Instead, refer to the paragraph number from which you are citing where you would usually insert a page number by using “para.” instead of “p.”. Be sure to include the author’s/s’ name/s and year, too, if applicable.
“The Purdue University Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement” (Purdue OWL, 2010, “Mission,” para. 1).
“Mission” is used here to refer to the section in which this quote was found.